DWP seeks 15-year delay of Clean Water Act provision

LADWP building
LADWP building
Omar Bárcena/Flickr

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State water regulators again must decide whether to grant L.A.'s Department of Water and Power more time to phase out a cooling process at coastal power plants.

The process is called "once-through cooling": pumps suck ocean water out of the Pacific, run it past the machinery of a natural gas plant to cool it, then spit it back out.

The federal Clean Water Act
prohibits the process because it's destructive to mammals, small sea life and larva in the water. Over 5 years, the State Water Resources Control Board has been putting together a ban on using seawater in that way.

Last May board members passed a policy that would end once-through cooling within 10 years.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) has sought to change its deadlines by lobbying for a legislative loophole in Sacramento, and now by seeking an amendment to the state board's prohibition.

DWP says it can change over some power plant units to a more ocean-friendly system sooner than the deadline. But the utility wants an extra 15 years to switch the rest of the units over from existing practice.

DWP says it has no choice - it can't comply any faster without spiking rates and making power unreliable.

Independent advisors to the water board - including some of the state's energy and utility regulators - say DWP hasn't offered enough evidence to back up its claims about reliability or cost.